In a move that could help shoppers make more informed choices, the nutrition fact labels seen on most processed foods must now also be on all packages of raw ground beef, turkey and chicken.
Under a new U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection (FSIS) rule that went into effect Thursday, nutritional information must also be on package labels for certain whole cuts of meat, such as steak or chicken breast, or on charts displayed at the store.
Previously, nutrition fact labels were required only on meat products with added ingredients such as marinades or stuffing. This is the first time nutrition labels have been required on single-ingredient raw meat and poultry.
The labels must list the number of calories, grams of total and saturated fats and cholesterol. If a package label shows the percentage of lean meat, it must also show the percentage of fat. For example, if a ground meat product is advertised as 80 percent lean, the label must also say the product is 20 percent fat.
“Consumers will be able to compare the calories and fat content for ground turkey versus ground beef, or for pork chops versus chicken breasts, right in the store,” according to the FSIS news release announcing the change.
The rule has been expected since a Federal Register notice announcing it was published on Dec. 29, 2010. The new requirement is expected to add less than a half penny a pound to the cost of ground meat and poultry.
The rule exempts small businesses that grind meat and poultry, so long as they offer lean and fat information and do not make any other nutritional claims on the package. The USDA estimates that 95 percent of grinders are considered small businesses and that they provide about 25 percent of retail ground meat.
To see additional examples of the new labels, go here.
Label image from USDA